Wednesday, 30 June 2010 04:19

Looking back on the past

In the 19th century, the city's Water Works Company was privately owned by George W. Brackenridge. Company lands included today's University of Incarnate Word, Brackenridge Park, Mahncke Park and the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.


Water was drawn from the San Antonio River and pumped up the hill east of Broadway (then called River Avenue) to a storage reservoir on the Botanical Center site.


In 1891, after a drought almost dried up the River, Brackenridge drilled the city's first deep artesian well. Soon, the old pumping system was outdated and in 1906, after donating many acres of Water Works' land to the city for parks, Brackenridge sold the company.

Because he wanted "a continuous drive from the city through Brackenridge Park to the Reservoir," Brackenridge gave the city 25 acres around the reservoir and the strip of land connecting it to Brackenridge Park. The City Parks Commissioner, Ludwig Mahncke, was given the task of improving the land, and he lost no time. As a close friend of Brackenridge, he enjoyed the donor’s full cooperation and support. Mahncke designed a series of drives totaling seven miles that wound through the trees and along the river, converging at the north end of the park. By 1902, there was a fenced deer preserve and enclosures for buffalo and elk. Animals were pastured along River Avenue near today’s Lions Field, and were fed with hay raised in an adjacent pasture. Though successful and popular, Mahncke resigned in 1906 after a political dispute with Mayor Bryan Callaghan, a bitter enemy of his friend George Brackenridge. Mahncke died within several months and was honored by his friends who dedicated a monument to him that stands today in Mahncke Park.

George Brackenridge continued to donate land to enlarge the park. His gifts included Mahncke Park, which he asked to be named in honor of his friend Ludwig, as well as property comprising the today’s golf driving range (formerly the polo field). The park was further enlarged through the generosity of other donors.

Most of the homes in the neighborhood range in size from 1,000 sq ft (100 m2) to 2,000 sq ft (200 m2) and were constructed during the 1920s through the 1950s. Pre-WWII housing architecture consists primarily of bungalows built in styles of Mission, Four Square, California and Cottage Tudor. Post-WWII housing architecture consists mainly of Ranch-style dwellings.

The neighborhood today has an eclectic mix of residents from all backgrounds and persuasions.